Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: The golf club maker who made a difference.

A book by Tom Carruthers, on his namesake Thomas Carruthers (1840-1924) is available on Amazon., however we have permission from the publisher to offer the information below.

This is the story of an Edinburgh golf club maker, famous throughout the golfing world in his day and is told here on our blog with permission of the publishers for the first time.

Thomas Carruthers lived most of his working life beside Bruntsfield Links, for long the playground of Scotland’s ancient and national game, before the opening of the Braid Hills in 1889.

The invention of the through-bore short socket for metal golf clubs, patented in 1890, catapulted Thomas Carruthers into the ranks of the best makers, alongside such names as Forrester, Park and Simpson. This design is regarded on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most important golf patents of the nineteenth century. Carruthers’ clubs regularly appear in the catalogues of the major auction houses and Carruthers is recognised as one of the leading makers of his era.

Early U.S. manufactureres sold Carruthers’ design iron clubs and club manufacturers used his design long after the patent had expired – indeed, it is still used by Callaway today.

Who was Thomas Carruthers ?

Thomas Carruthers

Thomas Carruthers (1840-1924) patented the short socketed iron in 1891 (patent number 19684), one of the earliest for iron clubs which he designed from his workshop at Gillespie Place by Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh.

The length of the hosel was dramatically reduced, with a hole drilled through the sole and the shaft sawn off flush to the sole. The idea was to reduce the hosel weight and concentrate it in the blade.

These heads were forged for him by Anderson of Anstruther. It was one of the few patented clubs to have been successful, remaining in production well into the twentieth century. 

A less successful invention was the bag he patented in 1909. It had a spring-loaded spike driven into the ground to keep the bag upright no doubt to the joy of greenkeepers everywhere.

Interestingly, he also designed the old nine hole golf course at Tring in Hertfordshire. 

In addition to his golfing activities, he was Scotland’s leading professional runner between 1860 and 1872.

British Golf Collectors Society’s journal

In the British Golf Collectors Society’s journal, ‘ through the green’ this piece was written about Thomas and the book mentioned above. It is reproduced by permission of the author.

BGCS member Tom Carruthers is a direct descendant of the famous cleekmaker who developed the drilled-through hosel. Here he reveals some surprising facts about his illustrious great-grandfather.

A personal account : Thomas Carruthers, Golf Club Maker and Professional Athlete

When I was growing up in Edinburgh I remember my father telling me stories about my great-grandfather, a famous sprinter and golf club maker, but like all youngsters I paid little heed. Some four years ago I decided to find out what I could about Thomas Carruthers. As well as delving into my own family’s records my research led me to make countless visits to libraries, archives and auction houses.

The amount of published information available about him from the late 1850s to about 1910 is quite staggering. Although my intention at first was simply to produce some notes for family members, the wealth of information soon made the prospect of a book on his life and achievements a possibility. This book, Thomas Carruthers (1840-1924), Golf Club Maker, which will be published at the beginning of November is entirely devoted to golf, except for the opening chapter.

Thomas Carruthers is widely known today for his 1890 patent for short socket metal golf clubs patent, also referred to as the through-bore or drilled-through hosel, and his famous driving cleek, 35,000 of which were sold up to 1899. However, his 1892 price list shows that he produced a surprisingly-large range of 28 different wooden and iron golf clubs. It is interesting to note that all the early American manufacturers of the 1890s sold ‘Carruthers’ clubs. Even today, Callaways use similar Carruthers’ technology in some of their iron clubs. It was said at the time that his invention would undoubtedly rank with the bulger, the Forrester cleeks, and the Park lofting iron, as one of the soundest and most serviceable of permanent improvements in the game.

The 16 March 1899 issue of Golf magazine carried a picture of Thomas Carruthers on the front cover and an article about him, both of which are reproduced on this page.

It is not only as a golf club and cleek maker that Tom Carruthers is known in the world of sport. In the sixties and early seventies he was undoubtedly the best all-round athlete in Scotland, and close on 40 years ago won a Sheffield handicap. On the flat, over hurdles, or in the long and high jumps, he was well- nigh invincible. For several years during the summer months his average winnings at the Scotch meetings in prizes were about £150. He took part in nearly every event at the various athletic meetings which he attended.

In a letter to the Melbourne Sportsman of November 10, 1886, Donald Dinnie, Tom’s old rival, gives ample proof of the prowess of the subject of our sketch when he says: ‘On page 51 of The Athletic Times Annual for 1877 you can see a record of 23 feet 4 inches at long leap done on Leven Links, Fifeshire, Scotland, by Thomas Carruthers of Edinburgh, on level ground, in 1871.’ If we mistake not, this feat of his still stands as the Scottish record. To show his exceptional qualities, his times for the 120 yards was one yard inside evens; 300 yards, 31 seconds; and the quarter-mile, 50 seconds. It is well known that, owing 18 to the perfect state of the tracks now, these distances are faster by two, six and eight yards respectively. These performances speak for themselves.

The Sporting Chronicle last year stated that the stride of Tom Carruthers was repeatedly measured at the Powderhall Grounds, Edinburgh, while he was training for sprint races. At his top speed he averaged nine feet. He was six feet in height, weighed 13 stone 4 lbs., and was a well-proportioned man. He was a wonderful hurdle racer; he did not leap his jumps, he simply walked over them, and at all the Scottish games he was invariably successful.

At the age of 32, however, Tom had perforce to abandon athletics, owing to a broken leg, a mishap he sustained while competing in the long jump at Dumbarton. He then turned his attention to the golf club trade – his business address now being 5, Gillespie Place, Edinburgh – in which he has been very successful. His patent socket for iron clubs is distinct from all others, and stands out by itself on account of its perfect balance; it is the longest driving cleek in the world.

B Sayers, of North Berwick, who, though of short stature, gets away a wonderfully long ball, says of the Carruthers’ cleek: That for that very important shot, a long shot up to the holeside, he considers it unequalled.

The features of the ‘Carruthers’ Patent Socket’ irons are, briefly, that the shaft runs down and out at the heel, and has, consequently, a nearer grasp of the head. The socket is two inches shorter than ordinary clubs, and this, therefore, adds a couple of inches to the wooden shaft and gives greater leverage. To fully appreciate the merits of the Carruthers’ patent, a trial must be made.

Mr Carruthers has done a great trade with his patent clubs, and up to the present has sold over 35,000 driving cleeks. There is always a demand for them, and only the other day he received a large order from New York.

Once again a member of our family makes a difference, this time to the game of Golf which, although the rules were only written down in Edinburgh in 1744, the game had been played in some shgape or form in Scotland since the 15th Century. In fact the game was banned by king James II, through an Act of Parliament in 1457, as it kept the population away from their mandatory training for their military duties.

Promptus et Fidelis

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